Leistikow: Appreciation for Iowa's brainy, reliable kicker, Miguel Recinos
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Miguel Recinos did a lot of impressive things in his first year as Iowa’s full-time placekicker.
One of the most memorable, though, wasn’t captured by TV cameras.
After pummeling a kickoff from his own 20-yard line through the Nebraska end zone at Memorial Stadium for a touchback, the junior walk-on from Mason City went into full World Cup soccer celebration mode.
He launched himself into the air. He fired his fist horizontally, as if he were Michael Jordan scoring over Craig Ehlo in the 1989 NBA playoffs.
Some Hawkeye teammates on the sideline were jazzed. Once he made eye contact with them, he knew he needed "to do something" special.
“You saw that, did you?” Recinos said this week in advance of Wednesday’s Pinstripe Bowl matchup against Boston College in New York City. “That was pretty funny.”
Recinos has a soccer background, in which he played goalie and forward. He said the touchback, which wound up traveling 90 yards with the wind after a few bounces, channeled the type of feeling he would get after making a big penalty-kick save or scoring a big goal.
And, with Iowa holding a four-touchdown lead, he just went nuts.
“It’s totally acceptable to do it in kicker culture,” Recinos cracked, no doubt pleasing animated and quirky former Hawkeye punter Ron Coluzzi.
They’re often cut from a unique cloth, and Recinos is no different.
But he doesn’t have a screw loose (by comparison, Coluzzi used to carry a football named "Naomi" around campus). In fact, he’s about as cerebral as they come.
One of the most entertaining interviews on the team, Recinos was involved in some of Iowa’s most memorable special-teams plays this fall.
He ran a wheel route as a distraction while defensive end A.J. Epenesa caught a fake field-goal pass from holder Colten Rastetter at Michigan State.
He squibbed a perfect surprise onside kick against Illinois that teammate Matt Hankins recovered.
He even lined up as a tight end when Iowa’s “Polecat” fake field goal brilliantly fooled Ohio State in that 55-24 rout.
But more importantly, Recinos provided a reliable right leg for Iowa’s kicking game.
He’s converted all 41 extra-point attempts and nine of 11 field goals. His only two misses? One was blocked, and the other at Northwestern he answered with a clutch, career-long 48-yarder that forced overtime.
He also was the point man on perhaps Iowa’s best special-teams area, kickoff coverage. Sometimes, he was instructed to boom the ball into the end zone to give opponents the ball at the 25-yard line (32 of his 64 kicks went for touchbacks).
Other times, he aimed to loop a high kick near the goal line with the goal of stuffing the return man inside the 20-yard line — which often happened. Even better than a touchback.
“I think I’ve had a pretty good year so far,” Recinos said. “Can’t get ahead of yourself too much. I learned a lot this year. There definitely were some very good things, and some things I’d like to have back.”
In fall camp, Recinos won a tight kicker battle over incumbent Keith Duncan. He kept the job all year while allowing Duncan to redshirt. But he knows he’s got one game to go, and it won’t be an easy one.
He’ll be kicking on a baseball field, perhaps in below-freezing temperatures. The extended forecast for the Bronx, New York, shows a high temperature Wednesday of 31 degrees.
He’s even bracing for snow, just in case.
“I don’t want to get Charlie Brown’d and have my plant foot slip out from under me,” Recinos said, “because that’s a very real danger. In kickoffs, I’d probably have to go off a three-step (approach) if it’s snowing.”
Recinos plans to survey the Yankee Stadium grass when he arrives next week to seek out divots or lumpy areas, and adjust possibly placements accordingly.
With kickers, the game is as much psychological as it is physical.
“Exactly. You’ve got to master the mental game,” he said. “I’ve had to get pretty good at it.”
So it should be no surprise that Recinos is considering adding psychology as a second major to his already-packed academic plate.
His tentative plan is to try for medical school after football (you read that right, he's a pre-med football player), with his major in health and human physiology. He's on track to graduate next December.
With his brains, he gets a lot of academic scholarship money. But he still has the goal of earning a full ride in football.
After what he did this fall, he no doubt deserves one.
The call could come from coach Kirk Ferentz next month, as it did entering for long snapper Tyler Kluver before his fifth and final year. But at Iowa, there is always a list of deserving walk-ons (leading receiver Nick Easley probably heads that group) waiting for one of those 85 football scholarships.
Whether he gets called into Ferentz’s office for the good news or not, Recinos plans to keep refining his kicking craft.
“My goal is far more concerned with performance,” Recinos said. “But don’t get me wrong, (a scholarship) would be a huge honor.”
Iowa is favored by 2½ points in the Pinstripe Bowl. In other words, oddsmakers think the game could come down to a field goal.
Perhaps we haven't seen the last of Recinos’ football celebrations in 2017.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.